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Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 14:58 UK

Mark Webber column

Mark Webber
By Mark Webber
Red Bull F1 driver

Heikki Kovalainen's crash dominated the Spanish Grand Prix at the weekend.

It was a really nasty one and it is never nice to see a car buried that deep into the barriers.

The first thing to say is that the run-off on that corner is too tight and we need to have a look at it because any driver that has an error there is going to have a big crash.

Heikki Kovalainen
Kovalainen is stretchered away after his crash
If Heikki's accident had happened two seconds later he would have been fine and controlled the car, but it probably happened on the worst section of that whole track.

I had actually been round that part of the track on my scooter on Thursday afternoon to see the tyre barriers because in testing Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Bourdais had crashed within five metres of that point.

Sebastien made a mistake whereas Heikki had a failure but the result was the same.

The problem with Heikki was that he went in at a nasty angle.

The conveyer belt system, which keeps the tyres together, works very well for a slightly different angled contact because it is supposed to cushion the whole thing and keep the tyres intact as well.

F1 cars are like a pencil and it meant he went under and penetrated the conveyer belt.

It is a nasty angle as it is like being in a sled and with the amount of pressure that comes along the top of the chassis the next thing exposed in the forward section is your head.

It doesn't matter if it was 10 rows of tyres or 20 rows - it was going to happen at that angle.

It is important to move your hands away because you can break your thumbs and fingers and he took a big bang to his elbow.

I was just hoping if anything did happen it was over quickly and that I didn't have too much pain

As a driver you never like to see the medical car or when they cover up the accident scene. At the time I just asked the team whether it was Lewis Hamilton or Heikki and we continued to drive round.

The good thing was that one of the FIA guys gave us a thumbs-up when we came past which was fantastic of him.

He is at the scene and it is just nice to know that one of our good mates and popular colleagues is not badly hurt.

I have been in some serious crashes - including two shunts at 200mph at Le Mans - and for the onlooker obviously everything happens so quickly.

But for the driver it is amazing how your mind slows everything down.

With experience you know when the car has failed you are going to hit the fence and you brace yourself for the hit.

But when a car takes off, like mine did at Le Mans, that was something I had not experienced before and certainly don't want to go through again.

The feeling is you are in the lap of the gods. You have no bearing on how the car is going to hit something - you are just holding on and everything slows down.

It is a very long waiting game. During the first crash I thought of my sister, who had just had a baby, and that if I was to go into the trees I probably was not going to make it.

Heikki Kovalainen
Kovalainen emerged uninjured from the 150mph smash
I landed on the track and thought, I've got through that. But then I still had further hits and landed in the fence.

In the second case I took off again and I thought, I'm not going to be lucky twice. I was just hoping if anything did happen it was over quickly and that I didn't have too much pain.

It is amazing how the human instinct puts up this shell that you might be all right. You are scared but you just back yourself that you are going to be OK.

That was before I was in F1 and it was four or five months before I drove a car again. When I did, it took a while to get back into it because those crashes were unique, but after that I was punching times in at the limit quite quickly.

It is inbred in guys like us that we can have a big bang and in some strange way it gives you confidence that you can get back into it.

The biggest thing that affected me at Le Mans was the trust in cars not myself.

You put so much trust in the cars and the people that design them and I was so badly let down there that there was more doubt in the machinery for the next six months.

But I still had a lot to prove to myself and there was a lot of unfinished business.


As long as you put your finger on why it happened you can go out and push yourself to the limit again.

The competition is what drives you and when you have huge crashes you have to dust yourself down and get back on the train.

The great driver Frank Gardner, who had lots of experience of racing in Europe and Australia in the 1970s, once said to me: "The tenacity you have shown is fantastic but promise me you are going to be around to enjoy what you have done."

In their days drivers lost mates every six or seven weeks but the safety has improved immensely over the years.

But you have to keep it in your mind and that's why some guys say: "Racing has been good to me, it is time to sit back, drink the red wine and enjoy it."

I had my best result of the season at the weekend in finishing fifth. We were helped by the likes of Heikki not finishing, so we got a few more points than we deserved but I've been on the receiving end of some of those so I'm very happy now. I'm eighth in the drivers' competition and we'll see how it goes from there.

Mark Webber was talking to Andrew Benson

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see also
Kovalainen has more medical tests
28 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Kovalainen escapes 150mph crash
28 Apr 08 |  Formula One
As it happened: Spanish GP
27 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Raikkonen cruises to Spanish win
27 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
25 Mar 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
12 Mar 08 |  Formula One

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